Monday discussion questions

Respond to Gavin’s two discussion questions by the end of class (1:30 pm, 6/23); you can either provide one substantive comment or two shorter ones. Your answers should total not less than 200 words.

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17 thoughts on “Monday discussion questions

  1. Question 1
    Right before Chapter 3 Rosa receives a call in the middle of the night from her childhood friend Baasie. The call ends up being far from pleasant. To sum up the whole conversation, Baasie tells her that her father was nothing special and then adds that he doesn’t need her help. Up until this point Rosa had been running from her past, however after the call it is clear that something in her changes. Why is this particular call so significant for Rosa and for the rest of the story?

    Question 2
    At the very end of the story Madam Bagnelli receives a letter from Rosa. What is the significance of the last paragraph of the story and why did Gordimer decide to end the book with it?

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    1. The significance of both the phone call and the last paragraph is how they both take Rosa back to South Africa. The phone call shakes Rosa and reminds her of the life she left while she is in Europe. Seeing Baasie and speaking with him over the phone reminds her of the struggle of apartheid in Africa and racial conflicts that she faced before leaving.

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  2. The call from Bassie is significant because Rosa comes to a realization that people are fighting against the apartheid in South Africa while she is sitting back and, once again, doing nothing about it. She realizes that she wants to join the fight because deep down she knows that she is involved no matter what and it is the right thing to do. So from there on out she goes back to South Africa and truly embraces who she is. She contributes by becoming a physiotherapist and starts to make decisions on her own. With her going back to South Africa, it shows that she is fitting back because it is the right thing to do and not because she was obligated to. It gives her strength and she is no longer living out of fear. After running away from her own identity the whole time, she fights for herself and her country while finally embracing the fact that she is Burger’s daughter.

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  3. I think that the ending of the book just sums up the whole story. I do not know if there is any special significance to it, but I think Gordimer uses it to connect everything. Rosa is imprisoned in the same cell as her father was. That shows how she connected or returned back to her father. The watermark tells me that it is a sign of artistic individuality which was not surprisingly censored out. I think that the letter was important because it shows how a part of both Lionel and Rosa is still out there living the life that they could have lived. It gives another perspective once again to end the book and sets everyone free. I thought that it was somewhat frustrating to try and make out what it meant because it could just be a way to end the book or have some meaning behind it. Either way it seems like a good way to end the book.

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  4. Rosa’s late night call with Bassie is significant because of how culturally shocking it was for Rosa, who cared little about Bassie and was surprised when he told her that. On page 190 when Rosa asks Brandt for a passport, Brandt asks if she will be visiting her half-brother Bassie since he should be in Europe. Rosa then claims that she “hadn’t thought about contacting him at all” (190), showing that she did not care much about him.
    Later on, in the telephone call, Bassie insults Rosa by essentially telling her to get off her high horse, arguing how she’s using her father’s fame (a fame undeserved) for her own. This call is significant because while the reader might be inclined to support Rosa in the begging due to her being the main character, Bassie is the one in the right; his argument has been proven more than a hundred pages ago. So while Bassie probably over-exaggerated the Burger family’s “hostility” towards their black family member, evidence proves that there is some truth to it. Even during the call itself, Rosa scolds Bassie for letting her know it was him; she asks why he didn’t just say he was not Bassie as she could have easily imagine Bassie passing away in some other country. In short, Rosa would rather have had Bassie die, then see him in an unattractive light. This call is significant because it shows how cruel, unintentional or not, Rosa Burger was.

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  5. Gordimer ends the novel with Rosa in jail because it condemns Rosa to her fate, one that she could not escape. Rosa is condemned to her fate by the ideology of her upbringing and childhood. This ideology, specifically the communist ideology, has disabled Rosa from being able to live a more materialistic or bourgeois lifestyle as she tries to in France and as Katya does. Rosa’s communist upbringing in a institutionalized racist society enables her to still perceive more subtle and under the surface system and consequences of racism inherent in a post-colonial white bourgeoise lifestyle in France.
    Rosa tires to escape all ideology for some kind of natural transcendent humanism but is unable to do so. As Althusser claims in his theories, nothing exists outside of ideology. As her attempts to make a life for herself outside of ideology fails, she must make a decision of how to live her life. She can try and live a more “normal” or capitalist lifestyle, but cannot because the communism that is part of her through her father, almost as if it was hereditary. This is why Rosa is condemned to prison by her fate. She chooses to be a communist in prison rather than participate in the colonial oppression of capitalism.

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  6. This particular call from Bassie in the middle of the night is significant to the rest of the story because it seems to be the answer that Rosa has been searching for in the novel. After her father’s death, she ends up leaving the country as if to escape everything that she’s known in her life up to that point. She always had and inner struggle of trying to figure her self-identity in a sense. Bassie’s phone call brought to realization that Rosa hadn’t truly cared about him initially as a member of the family. On page 320, he mentions how her family “took the little black kid into their own… and then the little bastard was pushed off back into his mud huts and tin shanties”. This truth helped Rosa realized that although it seemed she and her family cared, in actuality they didn’t. To further support this point Bassie mentions that she didn’t even know his name, although they lived and grew up together. Thus this call is significant because it helped Rosa realize that she really did want to truthfully and actively help fight against the apartheid for the people of South Africa. This is then where Rosa makes the decision to go back to South Africa as a physiotherapist for herself and not as Lionel Burger’s daughter.
    At the very end of the story, Gordimer’s last paragraph acted as the overall connection to how her father played a significant role in Rosa’s life. Throughout the novel, Rosa embarked on a journey to find her self-identity and tried to figure out life being Rosa and not a life with the shadow of being Lionel Burger’s daughter. She does eventually makes decisions for herself but this last paragraph reflects that there is still a part of her that is heavily influenced and shaped by her father. Gordimer includes this last paragraph to tie in the connection of Rosa and her father and also to reflect Rosa’s journey of finding the answer to the question of what it means to be Burger’s daughter.

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  7. After receiving the call from Baasie, Rosa realizes how strongly she feels about her father and what he did: especially if someone that lived with them accuses Lionel Burger for not being special. After her father died, Rosa was ready to discover herself and step away from her past and her father. However her encounter with Baasie quickly changed that. Because she was surrounded by her father’s actions throughout her life, Rosa strongly believed in the idea that everything he did was right. However, Baasie enlightened her on the truth behind what he was doing. Lionel didn’t really care for Baasie. After their argument Rosa comes to the conclusion that “there is only one end to the succession of necessary failures.” “The victory where there will be room for all.”(330) At this point Rosa realizes what she wants to do with herself. She decides to move back to South Africa and works at a hospital.
    The final paragraph is significant in reiterating the connection between Rosa and Lionel. Although Rosa wanted to escape her identity of being Lionel’s daughter, she couldn’t. He had a major influence on her in her early life that never left her no matter how much she tried.

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  8. The call from Baasie to Rosa is significant to Rosa due to the fact Baasie’s hard unadulterated way of explaining the events that happened during their childhood causes for Rosa to realize that her childhood wasn’t all that she thought it was. Baasie brings up points like the fact that Rosa didn’t know his name nor actually keep in contact with him to display the fact that the relationship between the two was in actuality much more shallow than she had thought it would be. Baasie’s eventual explanation that Rosa is basking in the glory of her father and that she needs to be able to perceive the world for herself and not through the shadow of Leonal causes for a major shift in Rosa’s perspective moving from trying to continuously run away from her past, to instead analyzing it and seeing it for what it really was. Overall this conversation causes for Rosa to finally be able to see the forest through the trees so to speak and finally realize that she wants to help the Anti-Apartheid movement out of her own heart and not just because of the fact her father was a leading member in the movement.

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  9. Baasies call to Rosa is significant because it drives the rest of the story. We, the readers, see Rosa wanting to become more active and when Baasie tells her that there’s nothing special about being a white activist, to stop living off her fathers fame, and to grow up and tomake those decisions for her self, she does. She moves back to South Africa, gets a job, and helps the victims/students as much as she can.

    The last paragraph of the novel is important because it shows how Rosa copes in prison and how Madame Bagnelli never truly understood the life of Lionel and Rosas activism. We see rosa has “rigged up out of fruit-boxes a sort of Japanese-style portable desk.” She’s not wallowing in self pity; she knows she fought for something she believes in and seeing her ok with her decisions. It was also interesting how she and Lionel had commented on something similar and even though it was censored, Madame Bagnelli never understood it from either of them. It shows she doesn’t understand their activism and only life as being rich in France (the life rosa left to go back to South Africa).

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  10. Bassie’s call to Rosa is significant because it marks another turning point in the story as well as in her life. Up until this point, we never know what Rosa actually believes about communism. Perhaps its because she didn’t know herself either, but after talking to Bassie something clicks for her. I think what he says to her makes her realize that this whole time she has been riding on her father’s fame which in a way makes her feel important, especially since she is the only one who can give answers to people researching him. She now sees that this doesnt make her important or contribute in any way toward the Communists’ goals. She also realizes that other people are still struggling for it while she is doing nothing. So I think one she realizes these things, she now wants to go back and help as Rosa, not Lionel Burger’s daughter, on her own terms. What I think is interesting and significant about Rosa’s letter at end of the story is that it connects her to her father. Now that Rosa has decided to go and be a part of the cause on her own, she now finds a new connection to him that she never had with him when he was alive.

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  11. Baasie’s call to Rosa was the precipice of her identity crisis. Baasie denounced her act in front of the people who were interested in her father Lionel Burger and his accredited ‘works’. By mingling with and entertaining the praise and curiosity of the white people, Baasie implied a sort of betrayal to her upbringing and past. Baasie brought up a great point that just because Lionel was white, he immediately garnered attention and sympathy for his struggle. Baasie implied a form of disrespect from Rosa towards Lionel and his cause by running away from and at the same time participating in the spoils of the revolution. Baasie wracks Rosa’s identity crisis by a remorseful indication that Rosa did not even know Baasie’s real name. After the conversation, Rosa is won over by grief and upbringing that she decides to return to her hometown. Her falling out with Baasie was a necessary parallel depicting the ephemeral contributions of human participation and brings to focus that it is not what Lionel did but rather what he stood for. Just as Baasie’s father to Baasie and Baasie himself to leave Rosa, Rosa is left with a choice to live a false life “a flower growing on a flower” or to realize that she had a piece of the heart of revolution within her. The deep schism and push to action by Baasie transformed Rosa into a women who now knew what the struggle meant and what it meant to her and gave her the clarity to identify that the choice was always hers, she just didnt know she would choose Lionel’s country.

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  12. I believe this phone call made Rosa realize that she had to protect her fathers legacy and for what he stood for. Lionel lived for the “Future” putting aside what was confortable and convenient for him. I think what he did was very special and difficult to do, and Rosa confronted and stood up for what she believed in in this section, I believe she feels guilty in some ways and very conflicted about what she is hearing, she knows there is some truth to what Bassie is saying therefore she does make the choice to stand up to her fears and go back to South Africa not long after this conversation. By going to France she has been avoiding being politically involved but when she gets this confrontation her passion for standing up for what is right is reignited. She no longer wants to be known as the girl called “Lionel’s daughter” the one who seems to run away from her problems, instead she wants to fight for what she believes is the right sense of identity and by doing this also honor who her father was.
    The significance in the last paragraph of the book is that Madame Bagnelli gets a letter from Rosa and in that section where Rosa mentions Lionel the line was deleted by the prison censors, this shows how no matter how hard Rosa tries to bring her fathers name to light and to change the corrupt ways of the apartheid, there will always be resistance to it and to freedom in general.

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  13. Rosa’s contact with Bassie as well as Madame Bagnelli point to a similar conclusion as well as a life-changing decision for her.
    After her conversation with Bassie, she seems to be far more inspired to help by way of her own devices rather than those of her father. She takes to heart what Bassie says to her. In the past, she was seen specifically as Lionel Burger’s daughter, and although she was a valuable (perhaps the only) resource for his biographers, she wan’t doing much, if anything, to further her father’s cause with his associates and friends. While those who were associated with her father were continuing to actively fight and struggle for the goals of the Communist party, Rosa was not at all helping their cause. She realizes this, and the phone call from Bassie marks a definitive turning point in Rosa’s mindset. Rather than simply sitting back, as she had done previously, and not actively moving forward to assist in the cause her father had fought so heavily for, she decided to take a more active role and return to South Africa, not solely as the daughter of Lionel Burger, but as an activist in her own right.

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  14. The phone call is significant because it initiates the awakening in Rosa. She has been in France, living a life of leisure there, and all the while has been neglecting the struggle back in South Africa. Throughout the book, Gordimer has been a little vague as to how invested Rosa is in her father’s beliefs. This phone call is the turning point, where Rosa finally becomes interested and committed to the communist, anti-apartheid cause. She returns to South Africa and accepts who she feels she was meant to be, which concludes the inner journey that Rosa has been taking since the beginning of the novel. The last paragraph of the book also deals with the final phase of Rosa’s journey. It connects Rosa to her father in a more circular way, and gives much more meaning to the title of the book, “Burger’s Daughter”. During the description of Rosa in prison, the narrator illustrates the inner strength of Rosa, and how she adapted to life in prison in much the same way as her father. The part of the book that dealt with Madame Bagnelli showed the other side of the fence, that Rosa could have fell on. The last paragraph assures the reader that Rosa landed on the other side, her Father’s side.

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  15. The final paragraph of the book highlights the way in which Rosa has become her father. The entire novel details her quest to find her own identity, separate from the way that she was brought up and the all-consuming lifestyle of a communist, anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. For much of the book, she contemplates her own freedom to make of her own life what she wishes, and seems to reject the behavior of her father, or at least call it into question. At no time is this more apparent than when she uses her contact, Brandt Vermuelen, to obtain a passport and travel to France. However, the end of the book sees her imprisoned, and writing letters as a prisoner-awaiting-trial, which is exactly how Lionel Burger was seen as Burger’s Daughter opened. In the end, she comments on the same keyhole of light that her father once did, showing that Rosa Burger has made her transformation complete.

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  16. Throughout the novel Rosa is caught between the struggle of her own personal identity and the political identities of her parents. I believe that Gordimer ended her book the way she did because it shows how Rosa’s fate was inevitable. Rosa would only be able to escape her fate if she completely denounced the ideology of her parents and also ignored the oppression occurring around her. However this was almost impossible growing up in the way that she had. It would also cause her to ignore her own conscious and morals. In the beginning of the second section Gordimer uses a quote from Wang Yang ming, “To know and not to act is not to know,” This quote is important because it describes Rosa’s character perfectly. She realizes the conflicts and struggles occurring around her but she is choosing to live a life ignorant to it. Bassie’s call is very important because it shocks her into the realization that she cannot just stand by and let the unjustness of apartheid continue, which leads her back to South Africa and inevitably jail. Her fate however was not completely set which is why Bassie’s phone call was crucial. I believe without Rosa would not have cared or at least would have ignored the struggles and conflicts that her father and mother had fought so hard against.

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